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  • Revolutions in Military Affairs? Evolve Your Thinking

    Are we thinking about military innovations in the wrong way? GPCAPT David Hood certainly thinks so. In this piece, he tackles the notion of RMA and some of the ways it can produce faulty thinking that can lead to vast, strategic errors. In its place, he argues for an alternate construct that’s fit for purpose when managing grand-strategic problems. The term Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) provokes interest and imagination. It implies the possibility of dramatic changes in the conduct of warfare. It evokes the hope of achieving the elusive holy grail of ‘decisive battle’. And for its proponents, the RMA offers much: lifting the Clausewitzian fog of war on the battlefield (Hewish 1994); enabling post-industrial mobilisation for total war (Wenger and Mason 2008); even changing the fundamental nature of war itself (Hoffman 2017). Despite these bold claims, RMAs are more analogous to sects than shortcuts to success. Conceptually, the RMA remains an obscure phenomenon and its promises are largely illusory. Most significantly, the belief an RMA can ‘revolutionise’ anything above the tactical level is both misleading and problematic for statecraft now and in the future. Before tackling the problems inherent in the RMA concept and how we should think differently about future war, it is necessary to define what is meant by a ‘revolution’ in the context of an RMA. The Oxford Dictionary defines a revolution as ‘a great change in conditions, ways of working, beliefs, etc. that affects large numbers of people’. It follows that an RMA can be defined as a great change in conditions, ways of working, beliefs, etc—military affairs—that affects a large number of combatants and, almost certainly, non-combatants. There are three broad and interrelated problems with RMAs in the context of current and future war. The first is conceptual: there is wide disagreement about what kind of ‘affairs’ are associated with RMA. While technology is almost always cited, many other elements are argued as either being part of, or not part of, an RMA. These include forms of combat, organisational structure, doctrine, innovation, adaptation, the nature of command, culture, ethics, the power of states, and the system of world politics. Such breadth risks cherry-picking those elements most convenient or desired, rather than those most important. Conversely, adopting all elements means an RMA becomes all things to all people, making the concept meaningless. If the concept is important at all—and revolutions must surely be important—then such lack of definitional clarity should not be acceptable. Further, as the name implies and as many scholars have argued, RMAs are the purview of military organisations only. However, many elements listed above are not specific to military affairs: they are affairs of society or the international system more broadly. Should we instead think in terms of human or societal affairs? It is misleading at best and strategically limiting at worst to credit the military as the only institution with agency to ‘revolutionise’ military affairs. It is widely recognised that whole-of-government action is essential to best manage competition in the current strategic environment. One need only look at Russian and Chinese actions to challenge and disrupt the current world order, which include a range of non-military activities such as information warfare, political subversion, and economic coercion. While these methods are hardly revolutionary—an issue that will be addressed in detail below—they have proven highly successful and are arguably more effective than any military action could be when the aim is to avoid escalation above the threshold of armed conflict. The conceptual difficulties described above make it difficult to grasp what an RMA is and what it is not; sort important elements from their opposites; and ultimately know how an RMA should be operationalised for execution on the battlefield, and by whom. A concept is worthless if it cannot be clearly understood and employed to advantage. The second problem is structural: not only is technology consistently cited as an element of RMA, it is often identified as the most fundamental driving force behind revolutionary change. This is reflected in the frequent classification of RMAs in technological terms (think ‘precision weapons’, ‘cyber’ and ‘artificial intelligence’) rather than in terms relating to non-technological affairs such as a ‘doctrinal’, ‘organisational’ or ‘cultural’ RMA. Crediting technology as the driving force behind RMA is a distorted and limiting perspective. History has repeatedly shown the introduction of new technologies does not result in revolutionary changes in military affairs. While new technology can produce short-term tactical advantages, it is invariably countered (often quickly) or otherwise provokes unpredicted reactions which constrain any ongoing advantage well before it becomes revolutionary. For example, airpower theorists envisaged invulnerable strategic bombers delivering decisive effects by striking directly at the enemy’s homeland, destroying its means to wage war and crippling its people’s will to fight. But airpower has never accomplished these effects, in large part because of the employment of counter-technologies such as radar, interceptor aircraft and anti-aircraft weapons. Naturally, these advancements were not revolutionary in themselves. Technological advances have and will continue to be important and change the character of war, but they are far more evolutionary than they are revolutionary. Most often, technological advances result in small-scale variations rather than radical and permanent step-changes. The introduction of the warhorse to the steppes of Eurasia prompted pastoralists to coalesce inside defensive fortifications, which in turn led to siege warfare and eventually mechanised manoeuvre warfare, making the horse obsolete. But this series of transformations occurred over thousands of years, and in different ways across the globe, influenced by factors such as culture and geography. Sailing ships were replaced by steamships, which were themselves replaced by motorships. But these changes did not manifest as clearly-identifiable advancements, but as gradual evolutions of trial and error. Ships of earlier eras were modified to operate in successive eras: several navies operated sail-only ships in World War One, and the United States Navy retired its last sail-only warship after World War Two. And, since their unremarkable introduction in the early 20th century, tanks and other modern armoured vehicles have been subject to innumerable modifications in response to an array of counter-armour technologies. These examples clearly illustrate evolutions of slow and unsteady progress, not revolutions in military affairs. In many cases, the theoretical potential of a particular technology is also constrained by the need to evolve supporting technologies or other factors such as doctrine, logistics and culture: technology often requires a system of systems approach to be successful. This shows a wide range of factors must be addressed before any meaningful evolution—let alone any revolution—in military affairs can occur. While it may be a step too far to suggest technology should not be considered an element of RMA at all, any focus on technology as a fundamental driver is misplaced. History demonstrates technology has less influence than idealogues argue, and for it to be influential at all it must be supported by a range of other elements. The two problems described above lead to a third, even more significant problem with RMAs: substance. If we cannot consistently discern the elements that make up an RMA, it is unlikely those elements are important or able to produce revolutionary outcomes. And if the only element consistently associated with an RMA—technology—is also not able to produce revolutionary change, it follows that no element of an RMA is revolutionary. Consequently, the most significant problem with the concept of RMA is one of substance: the so-called RMA cannot actually produce revolutions. This empirical conclusion can be arrived at intuitively if one considers RMAs in the context of the nature of war. As Carl von Clausewitz argued, war is a contest of opposing wills. Its enduring nature in this regard is therefore paradoxical: war moves dynamically, unpredictably, and non-linearly through cycles of action, reaction, over-extension, and reversal. What works today will likely not work tomorrow, precisely because it worked today. Intuitively therefore, revolutions in military affairs are not possible because the nature of war itself precludes them: anything that tends towards achieving a great change in warfare will, by virtue of its initial success, be countered. The impossibility of revolutionary military action is most noticeable—and is most important—at the strategic level. At the tactical level, changes (evolutions) in the character of war often occur. These changes do not automatically produce strategically significant results, because it is the consequences of military action that are important at the strategic level. For example, the introduction of air warfare brought significant evolutionary change to how wars were fought at the tactical level, as militaries sought to apply force in a new third dimension. But airpower has not revolutionised war at the strategic level because—like all other forms of military affairs—it is unable to produce revolutionary strategic consequences. War remains a contest of wills and airpower simply opened up a new domain in which humans could fight. Even the advent of nuclear weapons has not revolutionised war by making it obsolete, as was once prophesised by RMA advocates. Rather, the Cold War period saw an evolution in which great power war became less likely, and other forms of conflict dominated. We may be in the midst of an evolution away from that era today. Tellingly, we see no discernible revolutionary changes. Because the nature of war is unchanging, the same will be true for the emerging cyber and space domains. Where does this lead us in terms of future war? We must evolve our thinking. The concept of RMA is not fit for purpose. It is not useful today and it will continue to mislead us tomorrow. We must instead think in terms of Evolutions in Human Competition (EHC). Shifting our thinking from RMA to EHC largely addresses the problems of concept, structure and substance discussed above. A construct that recognises evolutions—the gradual process of change and development—rather than revolutions allows us to better prepare for future conflict by accepting revolution is impossible but continuing evolution is almost certain. Reframing the subject from military affairs to human competition more broadly allows military affairs to be situated into a grand-strategic context, as one of several tools that must be used cohesively to manage the contest of wills across not just ‘war’, but a spectrum of competition spanning traditional western notions of war and peace and all other forms of contest between. Granted, the elements that make up EHC remain to be defined, but conceiving of EHC rather than an RMA paves the way to deemphasise technology as a driving force and credit more important influences of change such as national will, societal resilience, culture, ethics and strategic leadership. Evolving our thinking through the lens of EHC also provides additional benefits. It deemphasises military solutions as necessarily being the best or only option for managing grand-strategic problems: EHC reminds us that many tools of statecraft exist and some may be used in conjunction with, or preferentially to, military power. Further, because an evolutionary approach rejects the notion of momentous and permanent change through large discontinuities, it encourages strategists to take a more long-term view, as opposed to placing unwarranted faith in revolutionary ‘silver bullet’ solutions which purport to decisively resolve problems in the short term. In essence, it allows strategists to view future competition as the next phase of a continuous stream of history which is fed by the competitions of the past and present. The essential task of strategy can therefore be viewed as managing currently evolving competition(s) to enable speculated futures to be shaped in favour of our long-term strategic objectives. Applying the lessons of past competitions provides the best mechanism to inform such shaping. While the future is not foreseeable, few activities are more important than preparing for future conflict. To do this, appropriate concepts must be used. While the RMA has a strong following in some circles, it is not fit for purpose and it will not best prepare militaries, societies and states for future competition. A more appropriate way to view how war—and competition more generally—will change over the course of future history is through the EHC lens. Competition undergoes evolution, not revolution, and that evolution occurs across a broad spectrum of human competition, not just the far narrower domain of ‘military affairs’. Still believe in Revolutions in Military Affairs? Time to evolve your thinking. Group Captain David Hood is an Aeronautical Engineer working for the Royal Australian Air Force. He holds a Master of Gas Turbine Technology (Cranfield, UK), Master of Military and Defence Studies (Australian National University), and a Master of International Relations (Deakin University). Group Captain Hood is currently Program Director for Projects AIR6500-1 (Joint Air Battle Management System) and AIR7004-1 (Theatre Air Control System – Air Operations Centre). Bibliography: Arquilla J (1997) 'The "Velvet" Revolution in Military Affairs', World Policy Journal, vol. 14(4):32-43. Black J (2009) 'The Revolution in Military Affairs: The Historian’s Perspective', RUSI Journal, vol. 154(2):98-102. Brooks R and Stanley E (2007) Creating Military Power: The Sources of Military Effectiveness, Stanford University Press, Stanford. Brose C (2019) 'The New Revolution in Military Affairs: War's Sci-Fi Future', Foreign Affairs, vol. 98(3):122-134. Burmaoglu S and Sarıtas O (2017) 'Changing Characteristics of Warfare and the Future of Military R&D', Technological Forecasting & Social Change, vol. 116:151-161. Christopher C (9 May 2013) 'Technology is making man the weakest link in warfare’, Financial Times, accessed 20 Oct 2022. Clarke A (1951) 'Superiority', Fantasy and Science Fiction. Cohen E (1996) 'A Revolution in Warfare', Foreign Affairs, vol. 75(2):37-54. Colin G (2002) Strategy for Chaos: Revolutions in Military Affairs and the Evidence of History, Routledge, London. Cooper J (1994) Another View of the Revolution in Military Affairs, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, Pennsylvania, accessed 3 Oct 2022. Dunlap Jr C (29 Jan 1996) 'How We Lost the High-Tech War of 2007: A Warning for the Future', The Weekly Standard. Evans M (2002) 'Seeking the Knowledge Edge: Australia and the Revolution in Military Affairs', Quadrant, vol. 46(3):30-40. Freedman L (2020) The Revolution in Strategic Affairs, Routledge, London. Gilchrist M (2018) 'Emergent Technology, Military Advantage, and the Character of Future War', The Strategy Bridge. Haglund D (2014) 'Why “Think Piece” Is Pejorative', Brow Beat. Hanscomb S (2017) Critical Thinking: The Basics, Routledge, New York. Hashim A (2011) Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Iraq, Cornell University Press, New York. Hayes B (1995) Evolution in Military Affairs, U.S. Naval Warfare College, Center for Naval Warfare Studies, accessed 21 Oct 2022. Hewish M (1994) 'Fishing in the Data Stream: Netting Information is the Trick', International Defense Review, vol. 27. Hickman P (2020) 'The Future of Warfare Will Continue to be Human', War on the Rocks. Hoffman F (2017) 'Will War's Nature Change in the Seventh Military Revolution?', Parameters, vol. 47(4):19-31. Hundley R (1999) Past Revolutions, Future Transformations: What Can the History of Revolutions in Military Affairs Tell Us About Transforming the U.S. Military?, RAND, Santa Monica. Jablonsky D (1994) 'US Military Doctrine and the Revolution in Military Affairs', The US Army War College Quarterly: Parameters, vol. 24(1):27. Kitfield J (4 Dec 2009) 'The Counter-Revolution In Military Affairs', National Journal. Knox M and Murray W (2003) The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050, Cambridge University Press, New York. Liaropoulos A (2006) 'Revolutions in Warfare: Theoretical Paradigms and Historical Evidence: The Napoleonic and First World War Revolutions in Military Affairs', The Journal of Military History, vol. 70(2):363-384. Loo B (2009) 'Decisive Battle, Victory and the Revolution in Military Affairs', Journal of Strategic Studies, vol. 32(2):189-211. Mansoor P and Murray W (2019) The Culture of Military Organizations, Cambridge University Press, New York. Metz S and Kievit J (1995) Strategy and the Revolution in Military Affairs: From Theory to Policy, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, Pennsylvania, accessed 17 Oct 2022. Millett A and Murray W (2012) Military Effectiveness, Volume 1: The First World War, Cambridge University Press, New York. Murray W (1997) 'Thinking About Revolutions in Military Affairs', Joint Forces Quarterly, Summer. Parker G (1996) The Military Revolution: Military innovation and the rise of the West, 1500-1800, Second edn, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Raudzens G (1990) 'War-Winning Weapons: The Measurement of Technological Determinism in Military History', The Journal of Military History, vol. 54(4):403-434. Rumsfeld D (2002) 'Transforming the Military', Foreign Affairs, vol. 81(3):20-32. Singer P (2009) 'Tactical Generals: Leaders, Technology, and the Perils of Battlefield Micromanagement', Air and Space Power Journal, vol. 23(2):78-87. Sloan E (2002) Revolution in Military Affairs, McGill-Queen's University Press, Montreal. Thomas K (1997) The Revolution in Military Affairs: Warfare in the Information Age, Australian Defence Studies Centre, Canberra. Udrescu M and Siteanu E (2021) 'Emerging Technologies: Innovation, Demassification, Effectiveness, Revolutions In Military Affairs', Revista Academiei Forţelor Terestre, vol. 26(4):299-308. van Creveld M (1989) Technology and war: from 2000 B.C. to the present, Free Press, New York. —— (1991) The Transformation of War, Free Press, New York. Von Riekhoff H and Gongora T (2000) Toward a Revolution in Military Affairs?: Defense and Security at the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century, Greenwood Press, London. Wenger A and Mason S (2008) 'The Civilianization of Armed Conflict: Trends and Implications', International Review of the Red Cross, vol. 90(872):835-852.

  • Announcing the 2022 Dr Alan Stephens Air Power Literary Prize winner

    A core objective of The Williams Foundation is to encourage informed discussion and debate on future air power capability. Accordingly, the Foundation is committed to supporting our future leaders and the development of their ideas. The Dr Alan Stephens Air Power Literary Prize seeks to recognise authors who have pushed the creative boundary, and forced the reader to imagine a new future. The Central Blue received a number of high-calibre entries in 2022, with many varied and interesting themes. In fact, the top three submissions were hard to split. While there can only be one winner, we felt it particularly pertinent to offer two honourable mentions. Honourable mentions The case for a National UAS Strategy by Pilot Officer Tim Sullivan (AUG 22): In his submission, Tim Sullivan asks the reader to consider if it is time the Australian Government devised a National UAS Strategy that intertwines keeping the ADF at the forefront of ever-changing UAS technology whilst expanding Australia’s industrial capability and global footprint. In asking this question, Tim explores several components of such a strategy and lays out a rationale for developing it with urgency. Airpower, baby! How Air Force can unlock latent workforce capability by Squadron leader Ben Gray (JAN 22): It’s no secret that people are the principal capability that keeps any organisation functioning and competitive. In his submission, Ben Gray looks at Air Force’s flexible employment practices and how these options are vital in retaining and expanding the experienced and talented workforce the Royal Australian Air Force possesses. Prize Winner While there are a number of other stellar contributions which you can read on our site, we can only have one prize winner. We are pleased to announce the 2022 Dr Alan Stephens Air Power Literary Prize winner is Flight Lieutenant Joshua Vicino. In his submission Smart but Not Smart Enough – When Having an Engineering Degree Doesn’t Cut It, FLTLT Joshua Vicino asks the question – how can Defence maximise the brain power of its people with engineering degrees in a post-FPR world where a typical engineering degree isn’t of great assistance in a ‘govern and assure’ role. We congratulate FLTLT Joshua Vicino on his winning article.

  • Vale Senator Jim Molan AO, DSC

    The Sir Richard Williams Foundation is deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Senator Jim Molan AO, DSC. Jim was a Director of the Foundation before entering Federal Parliament and we will always be grateful for his contribution to our mission. During his time serving in uniform, as a national security strategist and in the Senate, Jim’s contribution has been significant and lasting. He was a passionate advocate for the Australian Defence sector and a strong supporter of the veteran community. The Board and members of the Foundation offer our sincere condolences to Anne, their children Erin, Felicity, Mick and Sarah and their families. Vale Jim Molan

  • Summer spruce-up: The blue brain edition

    It’s difficult to believe this is our last post for 2022, but with Christmas a week out, the team at The Central Blue is getting ready to head off over the break. But, not entirely check-out. This week, Wing Commander Marija Jovanovich and TCB editor Squadron Leader Jenna Higgins share their recommended reads for the summer break to bring some intellectual colour to the grey matter. Whether in-print, on-tablet or as an audiobook, these are interesting reads you can knock over, learn from, and even enjoy. It is not an exhaustive list of foundational strategic literature or leadership texts. It’s not even a list of new releases. But they’ve picked these books as ones you should be able to easily pick up and put down as time allows amid all the other things happening during your much-deserved downtime. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World – David Epstein (2019) In the book, Epstein argues that range – defined as more diverse experience across multiple fields – is more relevant in today's society than specialization because the wicked problems of the modern world require bridging experience and knowledge from multiple fields to foster solutions. Why should you read it? I read this book in two different ways – it is both about individuals and about teams. I venture the second is more important to us. Individuals with ‘range’ take a lifetime to make, but as leaders we can build teams with ‘range’ now. I encourage you to read this book at least in part as a leadership text. Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics – Tim Marshall (2016) All leaders are constrained by geography. Their choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas and concrete. Yes, to follow world events you need to understand people, ideas and movements ‐ but if you don't know geography, you'll never have the full picture Why did Jenna enjoy it? As someone who has always been fascinated by the lines on a map, this book gave me more insight into why conflict has the potential to develop and evolve. Perception and old world borders will continue influence decisions– the nine dash line is but just ONE example. Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin's Most Dangerous Hackers – Andy Greenberg (2020) In 2014, the world witnessed the start of a mysterious series of cyberattacks. Targeting American utility companies, NATO, and electric grids in Eastern Europe, the strikes grew ever more brazen. They culminated in the summer of 2017, when the malware known as NotPetya was unleashed, penetrating, disrupting, and paralyzing some of the world's largest businesses. It was the largest, most destructive cyberattack the world had ever seen. The hackers behind these attacks are quickly gaining a reputation as the most dangerous team of cyberwarriors in history: a group known as Sandworm. Working in the service of Russia's military intelligence agency, they represent a persistent, highly skilled force, one whose talents are matched by their willingness to launch broad, unrestrained attacks on the most critical infrastructure of their adversaries. A chilling, globe‐spanning detective story, Sandworm considers the danger this force poses to our national security and stability. As the Kremlin's role in foreign government manipulation comes into greater focus, Sandworm exposes the realities not just of Russia's global digital offensive, but of an era where warfare ceases to be waged on the battlefield. It reveals how the lines between digital and physical conflict, between wartime and peacetime, have begun to blur—with world‐shaking implications. Why it's topical: As our coalition and NATO partners witness first‐hand the devastating physical destruction imposed by Russia within Ukraine, it’s important to reflect on two things. Firstly, this war has been going on for decades. The history between the two countries is complex and fascinating. Secondly, any cyber‐attack on Ukraine has natural global repercussions. Ukraine is both a cyberwarfare testing ground, and demonstration of cyber resilience. For those of you who have read Dune (or watched the movie) – you’ll quickly recognise the Sandworm reference. Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity – Kim Scott (2017) Scott earned her stripes as a highly successful manager at Google and then decamped to Apple, where she developed a class on optimal management. She has earned growing fame in recent years with her vital new approach to effective management, the “radical candor” method. Radical candor is the sweet spot between managers who are obnoxiously aggressive on one side and ruinously empathetic on the other. It’s about providing guidance, which involves a mix of praise as well as criticism—delivered to produce better results and help employees achieve. Why Maz thinks you should read this book: Radical candour is a cornerstone of my command philosophy. This book is where I learned the concept; I practise a modified version, adapted to our environment. She is keen to hear what you think about the theory! (Twitter: @maz_jovanovich) Shackleton's Boat Journey – Frank A. Worsley (1940) This is an account of the Shackleton boat journey. On August 1, 1914, on the eve of World War I, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his hand‐picked crew embarked in HMS Endurance from London's West India Dock, for an expedition to the Antarctic. It was to turn into one of the most breathtaking survival stories of all time. It is an extraordinary story of courage and even good‐ humor among men who must have felt certain, secretly, that they were going to die. Worsley's account, first published in 1940, captures that bulldog spirit exactly: uncomplaining, tough, competent, modest and deeply loyal. It's gripping, and strangely moving. Why it's worth a read: In addition to being a cracking story, this may as well be a leadership textbook. Amongst many gems, there is a line in it that has stuck with me, and which resonates through my approach to command and leadership – Shackleton “had a mental finger on each man’s pulse”; that’s why he could both drive his people to achieve what they did and look after them like he did. Destined For War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap? – Graham Allison (2019) China and the United States are heading toward a war neither wants. The reason is Thucydides’s Trap: when a rising power threatens to displace a ruling one, violence is the likeliest result. Over the past five hundred years, these conditions have occurred sixteen times; war broke out in twelve. At the time of publication, an unstoppable China approached an immovable America, and both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump promised to make their countries “great again,” the seventeenth case was looking grim—it still is. A trade conflict, cyberattack, Korean crisis, or accident at sea could easily spark a major war. In Destined for War, eminent Harvard scholar Graham Allison masterfully blends history and current events to explain the timeless machinery of Thucydides’s Trap—and to explore the painful steps that might prevent disaster today. The why: 10/10 for relevance to the world today and our place within it. Have you got a read lined up for this summer that you'd like to review? Be sure to let us know by dropping us a line at From all the team at The Central Blue, we'd like to wish you a safe, enjoyable, & refreshing Christmas break.

  • The Linebacker II air campaign anniversary and the Ukraine war

    This December marks 50 years since the ‘maximum effort’ Operation Linebacker II air campaign that forced the North Vietnamese regime back to the negotiating table. But are there lessons from the operation that should be considered in the context of the Russo-Ukrainian War? Dr Peter Layton thinks so – and they’re not just tactical implications, either. Fifty years ago the American government was trying to end the country’s military involvement in Vietnam. It came not with a whimper but with a bang in the short, sharp Linebacker II air campaign (18-29 December 1972). This air campaign’s partially successful role in that particular war’s termination may offer some insights for today’s Ukraine war. America entered the war between South and North Vietnam in earnest in mid-1965, quickly stabilising but not winning the conflict. Frustrated, the North ordered a major uprising that became the 1968 Tet Offensive which saw the destruction of the Viet Cong guerrilla warfare forces in South Vietnam. After that, only the North Vietnamese army could win the war for Hanoi and so was accordingly developed. In the 1972 Easter Offensive, the North launched a major land assault that was comprehensively defeated by the South Vietnamese Army and American air power. This second failure still did not convince the North to agree to a peace settlement at the talks underway since late 1968. Moreover, the South Vietnamese were very unhappy with a peace agreement negotiated without its participation or consent; it demanded changes to ensure the country’s survival. US president Richard Nixon now decided ending the war required putting maximum pressure on North Vietnam. This included launching the large-scale, high-tempo Linebacker II bombing campaign. Linebacker II had the same basic targets as Linebacker (the successful interdiction campaign that helped defeat the 1972 Easter Offensive): logistic infrastructure, bridges, railways, storage depots, military facilities, airbases and surface to air missiles sites. The big difference was Nixon removed most political restrictions on bombing allowing air raids into Hanoi’s urban areas and demanded a maximum rate of effort; 20,000 tonnes of bombs were dropped and almost 2000 sorties flown in 10 days. This aimed to convince the North Vietnamese government it could not win by stalling the peace talks and to frighten the populace, convincing both that the war needed to be ended. It was a psychological assault as much as one for military gain. At the tactical level, there were errors made in the first few nights with the 15 B-52 bomber losses arguably higher than should have been. Nevertheless, USAF crews learned fast and loss rates quickly dropped. Combining tactics improvements with attacks on the Northern air defence system meant that by the end of the 10 days, American air power was effectively unopposed. Bombing could continue unimpeded for as long as required – a situation readily apparent on the ground. While there was much angst initially expressed, when reporters returned to Hanoi post-war the damage was much less than anticipated, confirming the bombing had been relatively accurate and restricted only to valid military targets (pp 2-30). However, the psychological impact on the people was significant as every night for almost two weeks they had to stay in bomb shelters while a major air war went on above. The North Vietnamese air defence forces fired several hundred Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAM) and hundreds of thousands of rounds of anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire. Politically, the Linebacker II campaign was effective in very quickly convincing the North to agree to the peace terms in Paris, allowing the US withdrawal under ‘peace with honour.’ The bombing also reassured the South Vietnamese government that if the North attacked again US air power would return and so it signed the peace accord as well. That’s the good news. But after the Americans left, the North Vietnamese rearmed and in 1975 launched another major land force assault into the South, during which American air power did not return. This attack comprehensively defeated the South Vietnamese Army and Air Force (pp. 57-82). While Linebacker II ended the American phase of the war, its impact only lasted three years. It did not bring lasting peace, but was decisive only for the short-term. Linebacker II bears some comparison with the present Russian air offensive in the Ukraine. The Russian weight of effort is much less than Linebacker II and now involves mainly long-range missile and drone attacks. Moreover, today’s SAM and AAA are much more effective, seemingly with about 75% of the attacking weapons being shot down. However, the Russians are attacking Ukraine’s centralised energy network and its national grid; a few well-placed weapons are generating systemic effects. Additionally, the attacks are timed to leverage Ukraine’s harsh winters so as to cause considerable psychological impact on both the population and the government. Furthermore, Ukraine’s allies are adamant it cannot retaliate and attack into Russia. South Vietnam was similarly hamstrung and needed the US air campaign to drive the North into negotiating an acceptable conclusion to the war. Russia has no incentive to seek peace; it can continue its missile and drone attacks as long as its weapon production rates allow, stockholdings permit and other nations such as Iran continue to sell. Today is then more like the middle of 1972 when the North Vietnamese land offensive had failed and the North Vietnamese government was stalling for time. The Russian army has been rolled back and suffered heavy losses but President Putin will not begin peace talks until the ‘West’ recognises Russia’s annexations of four Ukrainian regions. In 1972, the aggressor refused to accept the country it attacked was a sovereign state; Russia is using the same tactic today in trying to ignore Ukraine and its agency. Linebacker II was deemed a success but South Vietnam was invaded again in 1975. There is a real possibility that when Russia eventually agrees to peace, it may simply rearm for a future assault as North Vietnam did. NATO membership for Ukraine is being discussed; for an enduring peace it may be essential as a deterrent against further Russian adventures. Linebacker II revealed that air power can have a major role in war termination through shocking an adversary and reassuring an ally. Worryingly though, it also highlighted that a permanent peace can be difficult to achieve. Dr Peter Layton is a Visiting Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute, an Associate Fellow with RUSI (London) and author of the book Grand Strategy.

  • Does the RAAF need seaplanes?

    The last time the RAAF operated seaplanes was 1950, but is there an argument to bring back some sort of modern amphibious seaplane? FLGOFF Joakim Siira thinks there are several – from tactical concepts associated with climate change to strategic relationships with key partners in our region. Years ago, before I joined the Royal Australian Air Force, I volunteered at the RAAF Association Aviation Heritage Museum in Bull Creek, Perth (I highly recommend you visit, given the chance). While working front of house selling tickets and gifts to customers, I was taken under the wing of many older veterans with whom I became good friends, whilst also being under the wing – literally – of a Consolidated PBY Catalina, undoubtedly the most famous and celebrated seaplane of all time. The Catalina served with great distinction during the Second World War, performing a range of tasks including reconnaissance, search-and-rescue (SAR) and mine-laying. Their strategic effect was well out of proportion to the number of airframes flying. All that time under the wing of a Catalina got me wondering; can the case be made for a modern-day seaplane capable of conducting strategic level effects? The last seaplane in-service within the RAAF was…the Consolidated PBY Catalina, retiring in 1950 after a decade of service [1]. This coincided with the worldwide decline in seaplane use and development. The rise of the aircraft carrier and naval aviation, long-range missiles as well as the advent of the jet engine combined with the massive increase of land-based airfields built during the war meant water-based aircraft had become largely redundant militarily. The USSR attempted to develop a jet-powered seaplane during the late 1980s, the Lun class ekranoplan, but never saw full-scale production. Maritime reconnaissance and SAR is now conducted by the P-8A Poseidon at 11 Squadron (once employing Catalinas). Based in Adelaide, the aircraft regularly operates from northern Australia and South East Asia for operational tasking. In support of these operations, Cocos Island infrastructure is being upgraded to accommodate the Poseidon, due to be finished in 2023. Nevertheless, land-based aircraft remain victim to one of the central characteristics of air power theory – impermanence [2]. There are two considerations to this worth exploring in the context of modern military seaplanes. The first is impermanence. Simply put, no RAAF aircraft can rescue anyone from the water. A P-8A can deliver life-saving equipment for the crew of a sunken vessel, loiter overhead for hours and relay information to surface vessels, but sooner or later it needs to return to a purpose-built, kilometres-long length of strengthened concrete to land. They can help, but they cannot affect the rescue. The RAN’s Seahawk helicopters can, but they are tied to their frigates, and if said ship is outside the Seahawks maximum range, they are also of no use until getting closer – at the frigate's maximum speed of 27kts. If there is a time-critical element to a situation, speed of response is a decisive factor. This may be either in the case of a downed aircraft, a sinking ship, or in the aftermath of a natural disaster, all where exposure to the elements is a killer. A seaplane combines the mobility of a fixed-wing aircraft with the ability of a ship to operate on the water and remove people from danger. The second consideration is the impermanence of infrastructure. As noted in the Air and Space Centre’s article ‘Airbases: Now. Then. Always’, climate change is a significant risk to not just Australian airports, but those of our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific. The 2011 and 2022 floods both necessitated RAAF platforms to operate out of RAAF Bases Amberley and Richmond, with extreme weather events and sea levels only predicted to increase by the year 2090. With an increasing frequency of extreme weather events, and consistent flooding of two of six of our operational airbases likely to continue, there will continue to be massive strategic consequences. The RAAF and ADF will not be able to fulfil their obligations to support the nation and the region if critical infrastructure is out of action. It’s possible the aforementioned runway works at Cocos Island may be finished just in time to become redundant. So, is there a place in the modern air force for a modern amphibious seaplane? And where would we get one from? The latter is relatively easy to answer, the former not so much. A seaplane would functionally share a number of roles assigned to the P-8A - maritime reconnaissance and SAR for instance. A seaplane, however, has the benefit of being able to land on both runways and suitable stretches of water, whilst also carrying personnel and cargo. Despite requiring significant financial commitment - at a reported unit cost of USD$156 million, plus sustainment, competing geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific make the investment worthy of consideration. Australian aid is going to be sent following a natural disaster, and if an Indo-Pacific islands’ runways are out of action, a seaplane may still be able to operate out of their naval facilities instead, even if degraded, allowing Australia to execute its foreign policy objectives. So where to source one? There are three military seaplane producers: Russia, China and Japan. With Russia and China being unlikely contenders in the current political climate; Japan seems like a safe choice. It is worth noting however that China has also recently developed a large seaplane, the AVIC AG600 Kunlong; it is currently undergoing flight testing. Japan has a long history of long-range seaplane production pre-dating the Second World War. Their current platform, the amphibious ShinMaywa US-2, first entered service with the Japanese Self Defence Force in 2009, with 6 currently flown by the 71st Kotukai. Significantly, it is also being developed as a water-bomber, with the ability to carry 15 tonnes of water or repellant; a capability that Australia would heavily make use of during the summer fire season. With a reported maximum range of 4700km, a mission radius of 1900km, and the ability to operate on sea or land, (by operating out of Cocos Islands, Guam, Nauru or French Polynesia), it could cover much of the Indo-Pacific in its SAR or reconnaissance capacity. There is again a geopolitical factor; a purchase of this significance would further strengthen Australian-Japanese ties on the back of the signing of the Reciprocal Access Agreement in January, as well as Japan’s attendance at Exercise Pitch Black for the first time this year. In this context, the geopolitical messaging of the first ever RAAF procurement from an Asian nation can have a strategic effect worth more than the sum of its parts – that message being Australia and its allies are stronger than ever; an important message to send to the region in these tense times. For all the current focus on potential conflict in the region and further abroad, one thing we know for sure is that sea levels are rising. As the underlying enablers of Air Force capability change, most notably availability of suitable dry land, it behoves us to adapt to that change. Seaplanes are one option that provide RAAF with a capability that negates a critical disabler – impermanence – and allows RAAF to execute the ADFs mission of Shape, Deter, Respond where it might otherwise not be able to. FLGOFF Joakim Siira is a logistics officer based at RAAF Williamtown, with a background in aviation and intermodal logistics. The views expressed are his alone and do not represent the opinion of the Royal Australian Air Force, the Department of Defence or the Australian government. #AirPower #ClimateChange #infrastructure #procurement [1] Wilson, Stewart. 1994. Military Aircraft Of Australia. Weston Creek, ACT: Aerospace Publications. [2]The Air Power Manual. 2022. 7th ed. Canberra: Air and Space Power Centre, Royal Australian Air Force. Image credits: U.S. Air Force. 2022. US-2A During Cope North. Image. RAAF. 2013. Warbirds Downunder 2013 Air Show In Temora. Image.

  • The Next Phase of the Russo-Ukraine War: Impact of Air Force General Sergei Vladimirovich Surovikin

    By Brian Morra 20 October 2022 Link to article Brian Morra, The Next Phase of the Russo-Ukraine War: The Impact of Air Force General Sergei Vladimirovich Surovikin (DefenseInfo) 20 October 2022 Text The Kremlin announced in early October that a new overall theater commander had been appointed to run its ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine. The new commander of the Russian Ukrainian front is four-star Air Force General Sergei Vladimirovich Surovikin, who is also the commander of the Russian Aerospace Force (comprising both the Air Force and Space Force). Previously, Putin had appointed two Army generals as overall commanders. Neither used airpower effectively. General Surovikin is a different story altogether. Almost immediately after his appointment, Russian air attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure targets escalated to levels not seen since February and March of 2022. The renewed October air campaign is clearly Surovikin’s doing. He has unleashed the Russian Air Force on Ukraine’s electrical grid, power generation centers, and other public utilities in Ukraine’s urban centers. His goal seems to be to cripple the Ukrainian economy by denying all industrial sectors the power required to run their businesses. Civilian casualties are mounting as some Russian missiles miss their intended infrastructure targets, probably due to faulty targeting data and failures in terminal guidance systems. The loss of access to electricity and other power sources also means that Ukrainian civilians will struggle to heat their homes and cook their food as wintry weather approaches. Who is General Sergei Surovikin? Ironically, even though he is commander of the Russian Aerospace Force, he spent most of his career in the Army. He is a legend among hardliners, and he famously supported the KGB-led coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. As a young Army captain, his tank unit attacked Moscow protesters who were marching in the streets in support of Russian President Boris Yeltsin and against the unlawful coup against Gorbachev. Surovikin’s tanks killed three protestors, at least one of whom was a Soviet Army veteran of the war in Afghanistan. After the coup plotters failed to depose Gorbachev, Surovikin was imprisoned for his unit’s deadly actions. Russian President Yeltsin later pardoned him and Surovikin became a hero to hardliners – a status he maintains today. Putin personally called General Surovikin to wish him happy birthday earlier this year. More recently, as a three-star general, Surovikin was the architect of the successful and brutal Russian air campaign in Syria. As a reward for his service in Syria, Putin transferred him to the Air Force, promoted him to four star general, and named him commander of the Aerospace Forces. With the arrival of Surovikin, the war has entered a new and dangerous more phase. Ukraine has inadequate air defenses, and it now faces a serious, sustained air campaign for the first time. In the wake of the new air campaign, Ukrainian President Zelensky has implored NATO and the G7 member nations to supply him with promised air defense equipment. If he has sufficient weapons, Surovikin will wage a relentless campaign. The Aerospace Force that he commands is also the service most likely to employ nuclear weapons should the Kremlin decide to use them.

  • Reliable Supply Chains, Defence, Partners and Allies: Shaping a Way Ahead for Australia

    Dr Robbin Laird 17 October 2022 During my September 2022 trip to Australia in my role as a Research Fellow of the Williams Foundation, I wrote the report for the September 28, 2022 seminar and engaged in discussions during the month focused on the nature of the challenges facing Australia and the need to shape effective approaches to the direct defence of Australia within alliance contexts. I had a chance to discuss a number of aspects of these challenges with my colleague Dr. Ross Babbage who is the Chief Executive Officer of Strategic Forum Pty Ltd and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) in Washington DC. A key issue which combines both defence and alliance issues is the challenge of ensuring reliable supply chains in the context of the digital age. The pandemic certainly brought to public attention the fragility of supply chains for Australia and the entire liberal democratic world. And the war in Ukraine has generated a broader energy crisis, notably in the wake of the aversion of many countries and the U.S. Administration to prioritize energy production during a perceived global “climate crisis.” The first issue which became evident was that the reliance on China for a significant amount of the West’s manufacturing capability left them vulnerable to the 21st century authoritarian states and their political agenda to change the “rules-based order” forged after World War II. With the Western economies eschewing heavy manufacturing in favor of a more environmentally friendly “service economy,” there is a key question of how then the West maintains a viable “arsenal of democracy”? The energy dependence of Europe on Russia has clearly underscored how not having viable alternatives for basic commodities can undercut Western agendas and policies. Although there is currently much focus on building alternatives in Europe, the continued emphasis on the “climate change emergency” clearly conflicts with a realistic long-term geopolitical energy strategy for all of the allies. And the Biden Administration’s rapid move away from the American energy independence reduces America’s ability to help allies in extremis. And indeed, when it comes to critical supplies, given the current U.S. trajectory, how much allied sharing will really be possible during a future crisis? The second issue which we discussed was the way ahead with rare earth minerals and processed metals. Dr. Babbage underscored that Australia has large quantities of many of the key rare earth minerals. But it generally does not process them; that has largely been done in China. This clearly needs to change, but this requires Australia and her partners to shoulder the key processing opportunities and burdens. It also means that Australia, her partners and allies need to work through ways to build and sustain relevant supply chains The third issue is that the Australian government needs to work with a variety of allies and partners, and not just wait for leadership from Washington. This is how he put it: “The slowness on some of the issues in this area means that Australia needs to move rapidly and take the initiative ourselves in developing bilateral or trilateral or multi-lateral alliance or partner relationships.” He underscored that “we need to get the network of allies and partners working effectively together to improve supply chains. In addition to our discussions with agencies in Washington, we’ve been having discussions with our friends in the region, most notably Japan and South Korea, but also with some of the ASEAN countries and India. “We are also focused on discussions in Europe because their industrial base is very significant and could play important roles in future Indo-Pacific contingencies. We have our own independent and close relationships with most of these European countries facilitated in part by our own European-origin populations.” The fourth issue is to expand ways for government to work with industry to ensure that essential supplies are available in a crisis and to ensure that Australia can do all of the important things it needs to do even during a very prolonged crisis. And Dr. Babbage underscored that innovations being generated by industry in a number of areas to strengthen supply chain robustness also can enhance Australian resilience as well. This is the case, for instance, in rare earth materials, as well as in advanced robotic technologies and some types of smart manufacturing. Babbage cited the example of an Australian rare earth minerals company, Lynas Rare Earths. They currently have a processing plant in Malaysia which they are closing in the coming two-to- three years. They are currently building a new plant in Australia and a second with an American partner in Texas. They are also modifying and modernizing the conventional rare earth refining process. He then mentioned another Australian company, Australian Strategic Materials, which has teamed with a South Korean company to develop and put into operation a completely new technology for rare earth mineral processing. This new technology process is much cleaner, less power intensive and cheaper to operate than legacy processing technologies. The first of this new type of processing plants is now fully operational in South Korea and is supplying Korean and other customers. This company is planning an even larger rare earth mining and processing operation in Australia and is also considering licensing their advanced technologies to allied partners. As a result of these and related developments China may lose its dominance of the rare earths industry during the coming decade. Put another way, shaping a way ahead for the defence of Australia is much broader than buying a new platform for the ADF. It is now also about the ecosystem for strengthening the supply chains that foster Australia’s prosperity as a functioning society and also the country’s security and that of its allies and security partners. The pandemic provided a hammer blow; the war in Ukraine triggered a global food and energy crisis; and the two together made it very clear that defense against a multi-domain power like China is not simply about winning the next battle with powerful military forces. It is also about being able to prevail in a struggle for national and allied survival. The featured graphic: Australian Supply Chains: State of Play. AUSTRALIAN CEO SURVEY 2021-2022. Link to article Dr Robbin Laird, Reliable Supply Chains, Defence, Partners and Allies: Shaping a Way Ahead for Australia (DefenseInfo) 17 October 2022

  • Resilient communications in contested environments

    What does manoeuvre in the cyber domain look like? And how is it critical for future warfighting concepts? In this address by TCB’s own AIRCDRE Jason Begley (Director General Joint C4) at the recent Sir Richard Williams Foundation Conference on Enhancing the Lethality and Survivability of the Integrated Force, he unpacks how ensuring information communication resilience is essential for freedom of action. Manoeuvre. It’s the doctrinal foundations of Australian Military Power across all five of our warfighting domains. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to this forum, even if you don’t spend your nights curled up with a glass of red reading doctrine like I do. So whenever we talk about Defence capabilities and concepts of any kind, we need to be doing it through the lens of how they will assure our ability to manoeuvre. Because if we’re not, then a) we’re doing it wrong, and b) we’re not really in a position to achieve a consistent understanding of what we mean when we say resilience. Let’s take a closer look at manoeuvre. This is how our doctrine defines it. And within that, there’s some key phrases worth noting. Position of advantage. Series of actions orchestrated to a single purpose. And for the purposes of my topic today, those last few words… protecting friendly vulnerabilities. We also need to understand the way the doctrine defines the relationship between manoeuvre and the five warfighting domains. It makes manoeuvre central by defining the domains as, “a critical manoeuvre space whose access or control is vital to the freedom of action and superiority required by the mission.” Freedom of action. Keep that phrase in mind as we continue. None of this should be news to this audience because manoeuvre’s been around for a long time. Coordinating your assets to mass your strengths to deliver effects against an adversary’s assessed vulnerabilities has always been a part of warfare. This was especially true of smaller forces that couldn’t rely on the brute force of attrition in the battlespace, and so needed an asymmetric advantage to prevail. Manoeuvre’s also a concept that has leveraged technology throughout history, much of which we now take for granted in our everyday lives. On land, manoeuvre was greatly improved by the wheel and internal combustion engines. In the maritime domain, we’ve moved from ships and sail to carrier battle groups and submarines. The latter of those has obvious benefits in terms of asymmetric advantage through its ability to constrain an adversary’s freedom of action simply through its existence. Meanwhile, in the air and space domains, technology set us free from the shackles of gravity, giving us reach, perspective, and the other characteristic advantages of air and space power with which you’re all too familiar. So let’s take a look at technology and its relationship with manoeuvre in the cyber domain. I often find when I talk to people about the cyber domain people’s minds immediately leap to cyber warfare operations, particularly offensive effects. Unfortunately for you all, that’s in ASD’s lane not mine, so that’s something you’ll need to ask someone who works there. It’s also not the focus of what we need to get our heads around today. About now you’re probably sick of me banging on about doctrine. But if we’re going to have a common and consistent understanding of something as complex as the cyber domain, doctrine has to be our go‐to reference point. So let me your attention to two key points you need to appreciate when it comes to manoeuvre in the cyber domain. First, look closely at our definition of cyber power. It doesn’t say effects, it says activities. Activities in and through – bringing us back to assuring our freedom of action in the cyber domain just the same as we would in the physical domains. But there are some unique differences between the cyber domain and the others. Sure, it has some physical characteristics and constraints – 1s and 0s need a medium to move through, whether it’s through hard connections or the Electromagnetic Spectrum. And both of those have to live with the limitations imposed by the laws of physics. But as a terrain that we intend to operate in and through, we don’t have the same degree of geographic constraints. This brings me to the second point. The cyber domain is one that we create ourselves. We’ve built radios, phones and networks to manoeuvre information through the domain, and we’ve always done it in a way that tries to gain us an advantage, even when we know the domain will be contested. For example, we secure our communications through encryption and waveforms to limit their ability to be intercepted, geo‐located, disrupted or exploited by adversaries. Meanwhile, we also keep finding new ways to produce more bandwidth or compress data so that we can move information around a global theatre to meet our needs, despite geography. We can build and manipulate this terrain like no other, whereas there’s no easy way to move a tank into a useful position inside an A2AD bubble. But how do we visualise manoeuvre in the cyber domain? Here’s a generic OV‐1 Googled from the web. Modern Defence Forces are full of them, but no matter where you’re from, they all share four common design elements. The first three are obvious – sensors, deciders and effectors. And those basic building blocks are the lens through which our ADF’s C4ISR Design folk in Force Integration Division see the world. But it’s the fourth one, normally represented by the ubiquitous cloud or lightning bolt, that we’re interested in. This is the connective tissue of the cyber domain through which information must flow. Because without it, the coordinated and synchronised objective of manoeuvre simply isn’t possible. Realistically, a sensor that can’t disseminate its intelligence product is functionally irrelevant. A decider with no access to that data lacks the situational awareness they need to make informed decisions. And so their ability to affect command is now significantly degraded, and the synchronisation of effects we need to support Joint, Coalition and multi‐agency manoeuvre simply can’t happen. Meanwhile, the effector’s ability to act now faces a greater risk of collateral effects and fratricide, because their original tasking may no longer be current, and their ability to act is now limited to their span of mission command and the battlespace intelligence and operational context they can derive from organic sensors. So assuring our freedom of action in the cyber domain, the ability to move information where, when and to whom we need it, is central to any form of Joint, Coalition or Multi-domain operation. So clearly, resilience is critical to warfighting of any form. But for every new effort we make to terraform the cyber domain to our advantage, our adversary is looking for ways to disrupt or deny it. Most of us grew up with fairly rudimentary PACE plans, but these simply aren’t going to cut it in a conflict whose speed is defined by the pace at which data flows from sensor to decider to effector. This has given rise to a range of concepts, like mosaic warfare, Joint All Domain Command and Control, Overmatch, Convergence and Kill Webs. Their differences are minor because they all stem from common design DNA – meshed networking to assure maximum connectivity from sensor to decider to effector. The goal, every sensor, best shooter. Now that’s more easily said than done, because if the conflict is going to happen at the speed of information flow, I can’t afford the time lag of operators switching settings between bearers as they implement PACE plans. Because if that’s the difference between winning and losing, automation will beat me every time. My web of networks needs to be able to constantly scan all of its strands, both hard-wired and EMS, to pass information via the most expeditious path. In the perfect world, my operator is sitting in their cockpit or ground station, and the actual bearer over which they transmit and receive information would be invisible to them. Now this all briefs well, but we need to pull this thread a little to be sure we understand what it means in terms of cost. And I don’t mean dollars. Picture a day in the life of a piece of data based on this image of a future conflict. My data’s born in a sensor, passed through networks to a ship via SATCOM, then from there to the jet via Link‐16, at which it and the ship both pickle off net‐enabled weapons for a synchronised strike. Sounds simple, right? Well, let’s start with Link 16. Despite what many of my vintage believe, it’s not the Link‐11 they grew up with. Load a crypto box, dial in the freq from the OPTASK Link, initialise and boom, you’re in the net and all sharing the same information. That’s history. These are sophisticated networks for which every platform is profiled based on its data needs, classification, outputs, and so on. Because those determine how often it gets a slice of the network action. A sensor passing data to a network‐enabled weapon clearly needs more access so it can provide continuous updates, than a tanker that’s just keen for some battlespace SA. This requires these modern networks to be engineered, and their operators and supporting elements to be far better trained than in years gone by. It also requires facilities for network validation and testing of networks to be appropriately equipped and accredited. None of that comes cheap. Let’s also talk about the network concepts themselves, because we know our future fight won’t be one where we go it alone. The future is one in which data is the centre of things, and need‐to‐share is the driving force. And for anyone who’s enjoyed the NOFORN experience, achieving that sharing can be both technically and culturally hard to achieve. The machine speed conflict of the future means we have to achieve that same pace of information manoeuvre. Doing so requires us to pivot to data‐centricity. By properly managing and tagging data with its classification, releasability and other meta‐characteristics, I can share it more freely. Sounds great in principle, right? But it also means I need to change the way my networks are designed. Because for that data to be shared, both on the network and between networks, without the need for cross‐domain gateways, translators and other denoodlers that introduce lag in my information flow, I need the network to be truly open in design, not one built to a specific level of classification or releasability. In this construct, my individual credentials, nationality, security clearance and physical location on the network determines what I can and cannot see. On the same network, the RAF officer next to me will see only the information they are meant to – some more, some less than me. And both our pictures and available information will be very different to the Japanese officer across from us. This is all impressive stuff. But for every strand I add to my web to increase my communications resilience and manoeuvrability in the cyber domain, I also create another attack surface for the adversary. So while greater resilience might solve my tactical DDIL issues, it might simultaneously generate a strategic hole of Optus proportions. So we need to think carefully about the cost of ownership that assured resilience brings. Especially for networks and technologies that have significant overheads for network engineering, integration and test labs that may go up to TS levels. For every strand we buy, we need to be able to assure it to an acceptable risk level, and as we are all discovering, cyberworthiness doesn’t come cheap in terms of workforce. So how much is enough? And how much is more than we can assure? If you think this is a vexed issue for us as a Defence Force, think about it from a vendor standpoint, especially those that deal with C2 and battle management systems. How quickly will they be able to pivot from open architectures that are still network-based to the data-centric future that meets our needs for rapid information flow. What might it cost them to change their vast suites of legacy applications to tag every track, based on how it was collected and processed and who by, with the metadata required to achieve data‐centricity? Picture the challenge for vendors that use their own proprietary data standards, albeit within an open network design. Because the future is one where data needs to flow freely, without delay, from a TS network to one where it can be shared directly with the PNGDF. How we get there is in itself a challenge. In the past our single services have chosen their own adventure in terms of the communications systems and networks they’ve acquired. That’s made the way forward much more complicated. We need the communications, and we need them to be resilient. And if you listen to the media, we’re on a tight timeline. This means some hard conversations about risk. Risk to the force in being against risk to the future force. Risk in physical domains against risk to resilient communications. The way forward requires deliberate choices, an objective whole‐of‐Defence rather than single-Service perspective, and discipline. If we can’t achieve that, the biggest DDIL risk to the ADF will continue to one that’s self-inflicted.

  • Preparing for Major Change in Australian Defence: The September 2022 Williams Foundation Seminar

    Dr Robbin Laird 14 October 2022 On September 28, 2022, the Williams Foundation hosted its latest seminar. The focus was on the challenges which need to be addressed in making the biggest change to Australian defence seen in recent memory. Rather than focusing on the away games and support for its major ally in such efforts, the focus was returning to the direct defence of Australia and what needs to be done with an adversary which can cut Australia off from global supplies. As the new Chief of Navy put it: “I believe it’s important to raise our eyes above the tactical level for a moment to reflect on why we build and employ an integrated force. And I say this because what we build and what we do with it matters only in so much as it enhances our national well-being. “Our national well-being like all nations is derived from sustained economic prosperity, and peaceful coexistence with nations. And as a trading island nation connected to the global trading system by seabed cables, and maritime commerce, our economic well-being is almost exclusively enabled by the sea and by the seabed. “Enablement though is not enough. Sustained economic prosperity has only been possible because these systems — freedom of navigation for commerce, and seabed infrastructure which enables our financial and strategic connectivity with the global trading system — have flourished in an environment of acceptance and adherence to the complex array of treaties, laws and conventions that for almost 80 years have been iterated, improved and almost universally supported. “We call this the rules-based order, and we credit it with providing it with good order at sea in the collective interest of peace for all nations. Those of us who understand Australia derives its well-being from this system are alarmed that such norms are being challenged. “We are concerned that the right to peaceful coexistence with other nations can no longer be assumed. As former minister for defence the honorable Kim Beazley stated in Perth last month, and I paraphrase, what right do we have to exist as a sovereign nation of only 25 million people occupying an island continent with room and natural resources the envy of the world? “The answer is the rights conferred by adherence to the rules-based order. The very rights we have assumed to be enduring and beyond contest for decades. But that is no longer the case. This system is now being challenged and our government has commissioned the defence strategic review in response to these challenges. “It is reasonable to conclude that that which cannot be assumed, must be guaranteed. And that is why the lethality and survivability of our defence forces is being re-examined. In this context, there is a direct and distinct nexus between the lethality and survivability of the integrated force and the survivability of our nation. “And this relationship is recognized by our prime minister in the last month. The Honorable Anthony Albanese has stated that he sees the three key principles of our current security policy are to defend our territorial integrity, to protect our political sovereignty from external pressure and to promote Australia’s economic prosperity through a strong economy and resilient supply chains…. “Australia is a paradox. The geography which makes it difficult to invade and conquer Australia also makes Australia dependent upon seaborne trade. In other words, Australia might not be vulnerable to invasion, but the hostile power does not need to invade Australia to defeat Australia.” Unpacking an understanding of the evolving relationship between the nation and the ADF is at the heart of reworking the defence of the nation in the years to come. The defence capabilities which have enabled the ADF to deliver significant but targeted warfighting capability will now be adapted and refocused on Australia’s direct defence and role in its region. But how will this intersect with how national efforts unfold? How will the necessary ADF mobilization potential intersect with the mobilization of the nation? How will the ADF build out its workforce and be supported by the enhanced capability of domestic defence industry to support the ADF in a crisis or sustained conflict? The pandemic as a prologue to the kind of macro crisis which faces Australia highlighted the need for more secure and stable supply chains. How can Australia build resilient supply chains and with whom? How to build the knowledge base with regard to what needs to be protected by such an effort and what can be left to the forces of globalization? The fuel challenge is notably significant as the geopolitics of fuel and setting climate change standards without regard to geopolitical reality will only leave Australia and the liberal democracies vulnerable to energy supply extortion. It is difficult to miss what is going on in Europe and its relationship with Russia as a basic lesson in the relationship between geopolitics and energy. And the question of Australia’s geography is a foundational point for understanding how the ADF will re-deploy and re-calibrate as the nation prioritizes infrastructure in the regions in Australia central to the projection of power from the continent to the first island chain of Australia and beyond. The importance of shaping enhanced capabilities for operations from the North of Australia was a frequent point made in various presentations to the seminar. Link to article Dr Robbin Laird, Preparing for Major Change in Australian Defence: The September 2022 Williams Foundation Seminar (DefenseInfo) 14 October 2022

  • Conference: Enhancing the Lethality and Survivability of the Integrated Force

    Enhancing the Lethality and Survivability of the Integrated Force National Gallery of Australia 28 September 2022 Final Report Dr Robbin Laird Link to the final report on Defense.Info Download Final Report More articles from Dr Laird are posted in Event Proceedings Synopsis and Program Download PDF Presentations Welcoming Remarks and Formal Close AIRMSHL Geoff Brown AO (Retd) Sir Richard Williams Foundation MC SQNLDR Sally Knox Sir Richard Williams Foundation Managing Strategic Risk in a Disrupted World Dr Alan Dupont AO CEO, The Cognoscenti Group Thinking Through Tradeoffs Chris McInnes Sir Richard Williams Foundation ACAUST Priorities AVM Darren Goldie AM, CSC Air Commander Australia Mission Rehearsal Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach Commander, Pacific Air Forces Research and Analytic Support to the Integrated Force Dr Andrew Dowse AO Director, RAND Australia Controlling Your Destiny Gen. (Ret) John William "Mick" Nicholson Jr Lockheed Martin Resilient Communications in Contested Environments AIRCDRE Jason Begley CSM Director General Joint C4 Joint Capabilities Group Delivering on the Promise of Joint All Domain Command and Control Bill Lamb, Director of the Multi-Domain Mission Command Operating Unit, Northrop Grumman Defense Systems RAF - Decision Superiority AVM Ian Duguid CB OBE MA RAF Air Officer Commanding No 1 Group Royal Air Force Decision Making – You and Technology Simon Taufel Integrity Values Leadership Defence Intelligence Enterprise RADM Stephen Hughes CSC, RAN Head Intelligence Capability Chief of Army Perspective LTGEN Simon Stuart AO, DSC Chief of Army Force Design Considerations MAJGEN Anthony Rawlins DSC, AM Head of Force Design Chief of Navy Perspective VADM Mark Hammond AM RAN Chief of Navy Chief of Air Force Perspective AIRMSHL Robert Chipman AM, CSC Chief of Air Force

  • Re-setting the Current Force: Shaping a Way for Ahead for the ADF in the Direct Defense of Australia

    Dr Robbin Laird 10 October 2022 On September 28, 2022, the Williams Foundation hosted its latest seminar. The most recent Williams Foundation Seminar was held in Canberra, Australia on September 28, 2022. The seminar was entitled, “Enhancing the Lethality and Survivability of the Integrated Force.” The seminar in effect provided a scene setting for discussing the next evolution of the ADF generated by the evolving strategic environment and the much wider demand side of dealing with security and defense that really requires a whole of nation approach. Since 2018, the Williams Foundation seminars have turned towards the major transition facing Australia and its partners and allies namely, the global confrontation between the 21st century authoritarian states and the liberal democracies. Rather than simply maintaining a “rules-based order,” the ADF and its allies and partners are now contesting the clear efforts of the major authoritarian powers to displace this order and replace it for a world safe for the authoritarians. And we have seen the Russians move from “hybrid warfare” to open industrial age warfare with some new aspects of the conduct of war introduced into the war as well. We have entered a new historical epoch, and determining how to deter, defect, contest and defeat major powers becomes part of the new context facing the ADF and the Australian nation. There are obviously no quick fixes for such challenges, but a major re-orientation for the ADF and Australia is required. As has been noted by a sage former senior U.S. defence official: “We have 80% of our force now which we will have in 20 years.” This means that reworking and reorienting the force you have but introducing new elements to make your force more lethal and survivable is a major part of the challenge from a force building perspective. The seminar speakers highlighted various aspects of what needs to be done to provide for rethinking the way ahead for the force but in the context of what is realistic to do as well as what needs to change to get the job of deterrence done effectively. At the heart of the shift is focusing on the direct defense of Australia, and working Australian geography to advantage. This means that the joint force needs to focus on how to work together to defend the continent and project relevant power into the region. The Australian Service Chiefs attending the Williams Foundation Seminar. This means as well that the new power projection instruments – those represented by cyber and space – neither of which is geographically limited are now part of the deterrence and warfighting efforts. If we can consider there is a return to a core focus on the direct defense of Australia and shaping an understanding of the strategic space defining Australia’s defense perimeter, how might the current ADF force be restructured in a template which allows for the kind of innovation going forward that will enhance ADF direct defense capabilities? How might new capabilities be added over the near to mid to longer term that enhance this defense restructuring to extend Australia’s direct defense capabilities? In other words, if one focuses on the priority of the direct defense to Australia, what kinds of force restructuring might be necessary for the current ADF? And then ask what new capabilities are coming into the force or could be integrated into the force in the near to midterm, what would that ADF look like as an integrated combat grid over the extended area of operations? If one re-shifts the focus of your force, one has to ask what is most relevant and what is not in such a strategic shift; and then determine what one needs to form the relevant concepts of operations for that force, It is crucial as well to find cost effective ways to enhance that forces capabilities and train appropriately to shape the most lethal and survivable force possible within the various constraints facing the nation. But that raises another key point. If indeed the priority of the defense of Australia is from the continent to the first island chain, then the resources necessary to do so are much greater than the ADF will possess. What kinds of infrastructure can be built in the relevant areas of sustained operations? How to enhance force mobility throughout the region? How to shape mobile basing options and capabilities? These challenges obviously require key innovative efforts for reshaping the joint force and requires government to consider investments and approaches beyond that which would be considered narrowly considered for a defence budget. The September 28, 2022 seminar provided a significant look at the reframing challenges and to how to think about the way ahead. This is how the Foundation invitation highlighted the seminar: Aim The aim of the September 2022 seminar is to examine specific measures which enhance both the lethality and survivability of an integrated Australian Defence Force. It will examine gaps and opportunities in the 5th generation force and identify priorities which accelerate preparedness for complex, sustained, high intensity operations. Background Since 2013 the Sir Richard Williams Foundation seminars have focused on building an integrated 5th generation force. Recent seminars have evolved from the acquisition of new platforms to the process of shaping and better understanding the environment in which the integrated force will prepare and operate. Moreover, they have highlighted the challenges of acting independently at an accelerated tempo and in sustained, high intensity, complex operations across all domains. Almost a decade later, the 2022 seminars reflect on the journey towards a 5th generation force and identify gaps, opportunities, and priorities for the development of next generation capability in the face of new threats and new risks, paving the way for the 2023 seminars. Despite the operational challenges, the framework and apparatus of the 5th generation force is substantially in place. And while there is still plenty of work to be done, the shift from a focus on platforms to a broader appreciation of an integrated 5th generation system of systems represents an important milestone. As identified in the March 2022 seminar, there is a shared understanding of the scale of the challenges ahead for both defence and industry, and across coalition partners, too. However, the strategic circumstances continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate, driving the need for prioritisation in both what and how we acquire new capabilities. On top of that, there is the challenge of progressing integration with the force-in-being as well as the future force. The need to balance the requirement to ‘fight tonight’ with the ability to meet future threats is vitally important, noting that the force we will have in 20 years’ time will contain 80% of what we have today based upon a series of major systems with an upgradeable software core. Towards a Lethal, Survivable, and Affordable Force The September seminar will develop the ideas identified in March and expand on the theme of an increasingly sophisticated and time-sensitive ‘lethality-survivability-affordability’ trade-off necessary to build a balanced and relevant force. A trade-off which is set within the context of a need for increased deterrence, decision-making advantage, and a commercial reality that we no longer have the time to establish the competitive tension the acquisition system has traditionally demanded to demonstrate best value for money. The seminar will focus on the gaps and opportunities as they relate to the broader requirements of the Australian Defence Force, notably in terms of enablers and integration priorities. Above all, it will focus on preparedness and the need to focus on outcomes which improve training throughput and performance at the force level, backed up by enhanced fuel, infrastructure, weapons, basing, and supply chain resilience. A core consideration will be the need for an increasingly integrated relationship between Defence and system providers to develop the industrial depth and responsiveness necessary for future operations. A relationship which works towards a better understanding of our industrial production capability needs, while recognising that competition in some areas has the unintended consequence of reducing overall sovereign production capability and capacity. Another area of interest is the need for greater exploitation of technology to enhance human performance and decision making at the force level to complement training systems associated with individual platforms and weapon systems. Improving training system effectiveness and efficiency, described in terms of ‘Mission Rehearsal’ at the March seminar, not only increases throughput but also ensures the enterprise is ready to operate across the spectrum of conflict while being disrupted, deceived, and degraded. To introduce different perspectives from elite, high performance sport, the Seminar also includes former Australian test umpire Mr Simon Taufel. For five years he was formally recognised as the world’s best cricket umpire based upon his consistent ability to make accurate decisions under pressure and his ability to integrate technology into real time decision-making. In the final session, Service chiefs will provide insight into their thoughts about the future operating environment and key observations and lessons from the transition to a networked integrated force. In later articles, I will highlight the presentations, as well as insights from interviews conducted in September 2022 with service chiefs, industrialists and analysts to expand the discussion of the challenges and opportunities to meet the challenges discussed at the seminar. Link to article Dr Robbin Laird, Re-setting the Current Force: Shaping a Way for Ahead for the ADF in the Direct Defense of Australia (DefenseInfo) 10 October 2022

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